Ive had stepped down from day-to-day management duties, and Richard Howarth was elevated to vice president of design. This had created tension as Howarth had gone from ordinary member to leader of a close-knit group of about 20.
Ive had spent more than a decade working under Steve Jobs to become one of the most powerful people at Apple. His word was final. But Howarth didn’t have that standing. Ive’s absence created a vacuum, and other leaders at the company tried to fill it. For all Howarth’s gifts as a designer, he could become defensive and passionate when engineers challenged him. Such outbursts increased as operationally minded executives and engineers with seniority sought to increase their influence over designs.
Jonathan Ive and Tim Cook in 2018 [Photo: Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images]
The team he led had spent a year on a complete redesign of the iPad. Designer Danny Coster had led the effort. The Kiwi had been instrumental to the creation of the translucent iMac and had helped birth the name “Bondi Blue” after the beach in Australia. He had developed a refreshed iPad with more refined curves and a lighter body that felt natural in people’s hands. Some of the product designers working on it considered it so elegant that they said it would be the first model they would gladly purchase at retail prices.
However, Apple’s operations team determined that making the iPad would require building several new features from scratch. The first-time costs of new machinery, a new logic board, and other components would amount to billions of dollars, an investment that would take years to recoup. Those so-called nonrecurring engineering costs led Apple’s business division to suspend the iPad.
Such cost-conscious decisions frustrated some members of the product team. In the wake of it, Coster decided to leave Apple and join the action camera company GoPro as the head of design. It was the first high-profile exit of one of Apple’s core design team members. He had been at Apple since 1994. His would not be the design team’s last defection.